Thursday, November 28, 2013


November WCASD Board meeting:

In Attendance:  Vince Murphy, Dr. Maria Pimley, Sean Carpenter, Ed Coyle, Sue Tiernan, Maureen Snook, Linda Raileanu
Superintendent's Report:  Dr. Jim Scanlon reports on the many ways WCASD schools are  "giving back" this holiday season:  blood drives, care packages for our troops, help for the victims of the typhoon in the Philippines, etc.  The superintendent also takes this opportunity to thank and commend outgoing Board members Dr. Maria Pimley, Sean Carpenter and Ed Coyle - all are presented with plaques.  Outgoing Board member Karen Miller, who resigned earlier this month, was not present but was also commended for her service to the WCASD and will be presented with a plaque.   WC VOTE joins in thanking our outgoing Board members for their commitment and service to the District and wishes them success, health and happiness in all future endeavors.   
Approval of a Resolution Opposing High School Graduation requirements: The  resolution to oppose Keystone Exams in Algebra, Biology and English Composition as a graduation requirement was officially approved and will be sent to the Pennsylvania School Boards Association (PSBA), PA Department of Education and the PA General Assembly.  As most of you are aware, the Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) voted, 3-2, on 11/21  to approve the use of Keystones as graduation requirements, but WCASD will go on record as voicing their opposition to these requirements and we salute them for doing so.   Thanks to everyone who heeded the call and contacted the IRRC to voice their concerns. Special thanks to WCASD Board member Sue Tiernan for hauling herself to Harrisburg for the 4 hour plus meeting to provide public comment on behalf of our district.

Noting the overwhelming amount of public comment on the IRRC website conveying opposition  to the use  of Keystones as graduation requirements - not to mention those opposed to PA Core Standards-  you may be asking yourself how this happened.   How is it that  five people , two appointed by House and Senate Democrats, two appointed by House and Senate Republicans, and one Governor-appointee, have the final word on using the Keystone Exams as graduation requirements?   How is it that parent/taxpayer letters, school board resolutions,  and superintendents' position letters carry such little weight for these five people?  How is it that the PA Department of Education/State Board of Education  can confidently promise producing a new and improved college-and-career ready student, yet cannot come up with a more creative and equitable way to assess our schools, teachers and students than through the continued use of high-stakes testing?   Discouraged?  In  times like these, we recommend finding some comfort in the inspiring national grassroots movements to end high-stakes testing at  United Opt Out
Approval of Advanced Placement Economics Course for the 2014-15 school year:  A new AP Economics Course for the 2014-15 school year was approved.  See November Education Committee summary for associated costs.

Approval of the resignation of a school board member and selection process for vacancy:  The Board approved the resignation of Karen Miller effective November 25, 2013.  The Board will take applications for candidates to fill the vacated board seat until December 4, 2013. The board has 30 days to fill the vacated seat and the term expires in November, 2015.  Public interviews will be held on December 9 and possibly another date depending on need and the Board will then vote on the candidates.    If you are reading this, we know you care about public education and encourage YOU to consider interviewing for this position - here's the application.  It is a rare occasion to be considered for the board in such an “apolitical” manner, and the term is only a two-year commitment.  You like it, you run in 2015. You don't , it's over before you know it.  Good luck!

Policies:  The District Wellness Policy was adopted and is now in effect. Policy KM-School Visitors and Policy KMA-School Volunteers were approved for a first reading and will be placed on December agenda for second reading.  As discussed in an earlier blog, the District hopes these policies will keep our students safer by requiring background clearances for school volunteers. 

Intermediate Unit report: Mr. Coyle reports the IU Board was treated to a robotics demonstration and the 2014-15 IU calendar was approved.

PSBA/Legislative report:  Once again this month, Mrs. Snook presents the trinity of legislative priorities in PA - transportation, liquor privatization and pension reform and reports that at least one, transportation, has been resolved. She continues, making a few comments on the transportation bill and hopes the best for the state's remaining legislative priorities. Mrs. Snook notes the outcome of the 11/21 Independent Regulatory Review Commission meeting and makes general mention of charter and pension reform, which she assumes will be forthcoming.

Charter School report:   Mrs. Tiernan takes the hints dropped by Mrs. Snook, fleshes them out and leads us from the tunnel of obscurity to the light of clarity.   In recounting her attendance at the 11/21 IRRC hearing, she reminds us that the costs of remediation associated with the Keystone Exams for  WCASD are between $366-498,000/year.  (One wonders whether the proposal to hire three  secondary Biology specialists at $250,000+  is included in this estimate.) Mrs. Tiernan  continues, informing us that SB 1085 is out of committee and PSBA continues to  work with legislators to attempt to craft a better version of this charter/cyber reform bill.  During its time in the Appropriations Committee, SB 1085 did see some changes to the pension piece and added a provision to form a commission to study the issue. Opposition to the bill still exists from public education and charter/cyber advocates. Check out Education Law Center  and PA Families for Public Cyber Schools  for  arguments and keep an eye out for action/inaction in Harrisburg in the few session days left before the holidays.

Public Comment:  Residents give thanks to outgoing Board members and, in particular, express gratitude for Karen Miller's work on Board.   The remaining comments duplicate much of what has been said in the months leading up to the election:  teachers, parents and students calling for "transparency", healthy negotiations, an end to politics on Board,  etc.  Difference:  this time, the remarks are expressed with the conviction that the incoming Board will deliver just that.   
After the comments, outgoing Board member Ed Coyle provides some parting advice for remaining and incoming Board members.   Mr. Coyle asserts that, per the Affordable Care Act, the insurance plan the teachers are asking for is considered a "Cadillac" plan that will end up costing WCASD taxpayers over $175,000/year.  He informs us that PC 320, the insurance plan accepted by all others in the district, is not considered "Cadillac".  Board member and healthcare expert Linda Raileanu  reinforces Mr. Coyle's statements.   Meeting adjourned.

Some teachers attempt public "comments" after adjournment and an explanation/rebuttal appeared on the WCAEA website following the meeting.   

The incoming Board will be sworn in on December 2 and much is expected of them.   While one is confident all Board members will work together to continue to move this community forward,  change will not be immediate.  And while some may feel they have "won" because the election is over,  please do not use that temporary bliss to justify dormancy until the next round of seats is up in 2015.  Each and every one of us  remains a critical part of the process of change, and we encourage you to remain awake and involved in that process. 

Have a safe and beautiful holiday weekend - see you in December.

"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."  John F. Kennedy   

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